Progesterone

Yesterday I went in for my progesterone blood test, and then started progesterone suppositories last night. I’m supposed to continue with these twice daily until I get a negative pregnancy test or make it past 10 weeks pregnant…

First, the test results: my blood progesterone was 24.49 ng/mL. I think the purpose of this blood test was to confirm that I had indeed ovulated. Normally you expect your progesterone levels to be near zero prior to ovulation, and to rise after ovulation. From what I can tell, 24 ng/mL is on the high side, but within expected variability (and who knows what ‘normal’ is for women pumping themselves full of hormones), so I’ll assume that this is a ‘good’ result.

Next were the suppositories. Here’s what they looked like:

Image

For some reason, I found the packaging very entertaining. The top view makes me think of a petri dish with a bunch of bacterial colonies – or a disk diffusion assay. The bottom view looks like a bunch of perfectly arranged raspberries! I use the ‘key’ thing to push one suppository out of the packaging morning and night.

After getting over the goofy packaging, I casually mentioned to C. that I wasn’t totally sure how to use them. His reply: “Just put it in your butt!” I laughed and told him that I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go in my butt. C. again: “Where else would it go?” After repeating that it doesn’t go in my butt, he thought for a minute and eventually figured it out…

So, what’s interesting about progesterone?

Well, like estradiol, testosterone, cholesterol, cortisol, etc., progesterone is a steroid. Being a steroid gets a bad rap, but really all that means is that it has the four-ring carbon backbone shown above. The name progesterone is short for progestational (preceding pregnancy) steroid (four-ring carbon backbone above) ketone (functional group consisting of a carbon double bonded to oxygen, and attached to carbons on both sides; highlighted in blue above). Testosterone is also a ketone, while estradiol is an alcohol (highlighted in red).

Fun facts about progesterone:

  • Progesterone (secreted after ovulation to prep the uterus for implantation) is responsible for the ‘thermal shift’ observed by those weirdos (myself included) who go to the trouble of charting their basal body temperature (BBT). For this reason, I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t bother to chart this month…I wonder how big the effect of the suppositories will be on my BBT…
  • In cycles that don’t result in pregnancy (like all the ones in recent memory), progesterone levels naturally drop off after 12-16 days, signalling Aunt Flo (AF) to visit. Since I will be taking progesterone suppositories, this drop won’t happen, and my period won’t start. Instead, I’ll have to go in for a blood pregnancy test. If I’m not pregnant, then the doctor will tell me to stop the suppositories, which will prompt AF. So, no checking the toilet paper for unpleasant surprises this month. (Actually, there have been no surprises from AF since I started charting…one of the few perks of being a weirdo data-junkie!)

The progesterone suppositories are a nice safety net, just in case I wasn’t producing enough progesterone on my own to support implantation (something I had worried about a bit, since my temperature shift is sometimes subtle).

And now, we hurry up and wait! Since this is the last week of classes, you can probably expect a fair number of ‘making sense of it all’ posts coming up. Apologies in advance for that! (Although my non-chemist friends will probably appreciate the break from all the science talk…) Also, I’d like to apologize to any biochemists reading my blog. A molecular biologist friend asked me to ‘lay off the biochemists’, and I will try to oblige! Truth be told, I have the utmost respect for biochemists!

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7 Comments

  1. I LOVE the chemistry theme of your blog!! I hardly understand anything of chemistry but my parents are both chemists so i grew up playing with making crystals rather than with dolls. It’s cool to hear chemical stuff explained in an easy way. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  2. Thanks! It’s dorky, but I find it therapeutic to come up with little chemistry ‘lessons’ from all this. πŸ˜‰ As I was reading your blog, I couldn’t help wondering if you were a scientist too! For each of the blogs I read, I keep imagining the authors as particular friends of mine. In your case, I imagine a marine ecologist friend from my postdoc – also Italian.

    Reply
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